Today was the first day in ages that we had no agenda. This is the season when the calendar fills up quickly; the last two weeks have felt like an even-busier-than-usual rush from one thing to another. Either Shawna or I (or both) have been out almost every night. We’ve been to family birthdays, church commitments, Christmas shopping, and two different office parties. I also just put to bed the Winter issue of the sports magazine I freelance for in all my abundant spare time… and in the midst of all that, we flirted with buying a house. (We couldn’t reach an agreement with the seller, which was mildy disappointing but also kind of a relief that we don’t need to think about packing right now.)
It’s all good stuff, but… man, I’m tired. By Thursday night I thought I was coming down with the flu, but I think I was simply wiped out. So it felt great to wake up at 7 a.m with a blank slate before us. Nowhere we had to go, nothing we absolutely had to accomplish.
We actually got a lot done today: the house is spotless, our overdue library books are returned, and Oscar’s hair no longer looks like a safe haven for pigeons. Shawna’s even painting the kitchen as I type. (Before you label me a bad husband, I moved the heavy furniture for her before I sat down with my laptop, OK?)
But we did all of that on our own time, when we felt like it. This morning I lounged around on the floor with the kids and listened to Arcade Fire and Janelle Monae. I made bacon when we got hungry, and no one got dressed before 10 a.m. (Except for Gideon, who was back in PJs after blowing through three outfits before 8. The stuff coming out of that boy right now is alarming… but that’s another topic.)
Days like that are so important. Not only am I more relaxed, it’s way easier to parent when I can let things unfold and not try to force the kids into an agenda. Structure can be a good thing—our oldest, in particular, needs it to some degree—but sometimes it’s important to just chill out.
When I’m not preoccupied with what comes next, I’m more lax about the little things that often become battles, even though they’re rarely as big a deal as we make them out to be. For example, Oscar wanted hot chocolate first thing this morning? No problem. It’s Saturday—let’s all have hot chocolate before breakfast. It didn’t even spoil his appetite. In fact, he ate more than usual.
It wasn’t a flawless day. The one battle I chose to fight was a doozy: I insisted that everybody try a new food at suppertime. Oscar and Maliah both loved it…but Xander cried, screamed, begged, and writhed on the floor in agony for a solid hour. I am not exaggerating. (“I ALREADY KNOW I DON’T LIKE IT! THIS IS NOT FAIR!!! I’M SO HUNGRY DADDY, WHY WON’T YOU PLEASE JUST GIVE ME WHAT I WANT?”)
But the difference is that, after such a low-key day, Shawna and I handled that meltdown really well. We stayed calm and even responded with a sense of humour. Unfortunately, that scenario doesn’t always play out on weekdays when we’re both running on fumes by 6 p.m.
Xander and I eventually made up when I invited him to help with the dishes. Turning a five-year-old loose in a sink full of soapy water is about as messy as it sounds—and again, something I might not have the patience for on a Wednesday night when all I want to do is get the house clean and everyone in bed. But today I had extra grace, so we washed dishes together and both got soaked and had a good time.
Time is the thing: life feels so much richer when I’m not looking at my watch and I can just enjoy the moment. Oscar and I stopped at the grocery store for a few things after his haircut today, and he was being his usual self—talking a mile a minute, asking for oranges and grapes and a bottle of blueberry smoothie, jumping over the grey tiles because those ones explode. An older gentleman restocking the lettuce kept watching us.
“Pardon me, sir,” he said to me, “But I want to tell you to cherish these times. They don’t last forever.”
“I know,” I said. “And I’m trying.”